I had a cursory glance through the Queensland and New South Wales State budgets yesterday to see if there was anything interesting going on in terms of climate change. There wasn’t.
New South Wales allocated around $21Million to leverage private sector investment for 6 new large scale renewable projects – but it hardly makes up for the lack of a coherent policy to promote renewable energy. There was also a good chunk of cash that just got flushed down the toilet, with another $25Million allocated to “clean coal” in 2010/11.

Interestingly in NSW, they didn’t mention anything about funding their “Climate Change Action Plan” which was supposed to be developed to replace the 2005 State Greenhouse Plan. The climate policy vacuum looks set to continue in NSW for some time – but, to be fair, it isn’t the only policy vacuum in the state.

Queensland is in a similar position with a small cash splash for solar energy which is substantially more than NSW but still lacks any mechanism that would actually drive the growth of large scale renewables.

One of the interesting things that stood out in the transport section of the QLD budget was $864.2 million for coal network track works and new and upgraded locomotives and wagons to support coal haulage across Queensland. There is also $40.2 million to continue capacity improvements and upgrades at the RG Tanna coal terminal at the Port of Gladstone, at a total estimated cost of $95.3 million.

Hmmm…why are taxpayers paying for coal trains? Isn’t that something that coal companies should be paying for? We don’t buy trucks for woolworths to transport veges, so why on earth are coal companies getting special handouts?

When you look for the figures on coal royalties, it shows that in 2009/10 QLD earned a bit over $1.6 billion – over half of which will be spent this year on direct subsidies to the industry. Royalties are set to increase dramatically in 2011 due to booming sales to China, but how much will subsidies have to increase next year to further upgrade coal trains and infrastructure?

Seems like corporate welfare to me. I can’t think of an industry less deserving, given the vast uncounted costs of greenhouse emissions and destruction of water resources by coal mining around the country.